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Friday, January 27, 2012

Last Week in TV #17

A quiet week and a short post, as most shows are in reruns in anticpation of February sweeps. I wasn't able to catch the Thursday night shows yet, so they'll be covered in next week's post.  

Once Upon a Time: 7:15 AM


Thanks to this show taking a little mid-winter break and a couple weekend catch-up sessions, I've managed to get current. Like Lost before it, it's become a show where I tend to enjoy one-half of the episode more than the other. Unlike Lost, here, it's the flashbacks that are most compelling (dicey CG and anachronist dialogue aside), while watching Regina be a bitch in the present day can get a little one note (and like Lost, the best episodes are the ones where both halves are compelling, like the episode where we learned the origin of Rumpelstiltskin and Emma ran for Sheriff).

Of the show's various ongoing narratives this episode focused on the one that should be the least enjoyable: the Snow/Charming relationship. In terms of the present day storyline, it's a weak will they/won't with a false start: we know they will, it's just a matter of time, and we also know they won't, really, for awhile, because Regina's hold on the modern world can't unravel that fast. Yet of all the show's ongoing narratives, I find myself enjoying this one the most, as it is kind of fun watching these two dopey characters circle around each other, trying to ignore the tug of the inevitable, while Regina is lurking, always, always lurking, on the edges.

Other Thoughts
The show occasionally reminds us that Mary Margaret is Emma's mother, but little has been made of the fact that David is Emma's father, something I don't think Emma knows/hasn't put together yet.

It was nice to see Red Riding Hood in fairy tale land, instead of just wiping tables in the modern world. In general, I've been enjoying the way the show interweaves different fairy tale characters in the flashbacks.

So Steathly, the ninja 8th dwarf, was both awesome and kinda ridiculous at the same time. Also, at the risk of being politically incorrect, those dwarves aren't very short.

The mysterious new stranger in town is a writer. I condone this show's portrayal of writers as mysteriously sexy, and am curious to see where this is going.

As much as I may be inexplicably enjoying this whole Snow/Charming deal, the symbolism of the dove was pretty heavy handed, even for this show, and while I understand that love, as the saying goes, makes you do the whacky, embracing one another in the middle of the street in broad daylight was pretty dumb. I mean, Regina conveniently being in her car to see it was dumb too, but it isn't like she wasn't going to find out when you're making out in public. 


Alcatraz: Kit Nelson


Alcatraz (or "The 'Traz" as my wife and I call it) continues to come out of the gate strong with its third episode. While the format, at least in these early goings, has already been clearly established as "prisoner from the past shows up and Sarah and Doc hunt him down while tidbits of mythology play out in the past and on the edges" the balance between the case-of-the-week stuff and the larger mythology is being nicely maintained. In these early episodes, I don't need a lot of answers, and am fine with more questions getting offered up and teased. For now, knowing that the show is willing to explore that mythology, and isn't afraid to sneak in little cross-episode things like the captured prisoners from the first two episodes or Sarah's grandfather always being behind the curtain in the infirmary, is enough to support the weekly cases.

This week's case was, perhaps, the most manipulative yet (I mean, child endangerment is a pretty easy way to get people invested in the story), but it succeeded on the strength of the performance of Kit Nelson, who was great at being being creepy and quietly menacing. The scene between him and the warden, in which he confessed to killing his brother, was fantastic (and of all the show's various mysteries, I'm especially curious as to how involved the warden is in everything; I wonder if he'll be popping up in the present day at episode's end one of these days).

This was also what could be considered a Doc-centric episode, as he was the focus of the investigation and we learned a little bit more about his background. I'm not sure if the show intends for there to be more to the childhood incident that made this case so personal for him, but I wouldn't mind if the details go unrevealed and we're just left knowing Doc has been through some shit. At any rate, while I don't think this show can handle Lost's style of character focus, it was nice to see one of the more unique voices on the show get fleshed out a bit. 


Top Chef: Block Party


As the numbers continue to dwindle, the episodes get better, and here we got a couple of nifty challenges, forcing the chefs to work together and then against one another. I like that the show continues to feature some form of the mis en place relay race, but finds new ways to shake it up. Chris' departure wasn't terribly shocking, as I didn't expect him to make the finals (as Tom said, he seemed to miss point on execution too often). Meanwhile, this is pretty much Paul's to lose at this point, right? Dude just keeps racking up the wins and/or cash.

Grayson's "like a meatball?" line is in danger of becoming a full on internet meme, at least amongst weird foodie types who watch this show, but she had a point: I didn't feel like there was anything inherently risky or creative about either of the other two selections, and it seems like, at least as edited, that Tom was giving her a much harder time than she deserved for picking chicken salad. I mean, isn't the point to make good food? If her chicken salad was awful, ding her for that, but don't ding her for picking it if it turned out good. It was a block party, not fine dining.

16 comments:

Sarah Ahiers said...

Yeah i don't know why tom was giving her shit about her dish. It's a block party, which was chicken salad such a bad choice?
Grayson cracks me up, and I was so glad when she smacked tom around a bit.
I'll be interested in seeing who wins redemption island, Bev or Chris, though i'm thinking Bev has a bit of an edge there

Teebore said...

@Sarah: I'll be interested in seeing who wins redemption island, Bev or Chris, though i'm thinking Bev has a bit of an edge there

Me too, though I've heard some rumblings that the Nysesha/Bev showdown was setup such that Bev had a HUGE advantage, like they wanted her to win. But I haven't bothered to read further on that.

Anne said...

maybe it's a midwest thing- and that's why we didn't think chicken salad was such an odd choice for a block party (perhaps it's anathema all over the rest of the country).

i love Jorge Garcia.
Also, i really don't like the haircut of the main chick in 'Traz

Mr.Shabadoo said...

Traz

I began watching this show based on the fact it was being covered here. So far I am a fan... due in no small part to the attractiveness of the main protagonist. Some thoughts so far:

-They clearly were prepared for these criminals to come back. Yet they are almost entirely reliant on the two people that literally stumbled into their operation to catch them? What sort of crap planning is that? I really hope that part of the 'mystery' eventually reveals that these two were intended to be part of the operation all along and were only made to think that it was their own choice.

-Loved how dead wrong Emerson was when he 'threatened' Rebecca that if she left she'd never find out what happened to her grandpa. He needs her more than she needs him. Also, I don't really understand why he dislikes Rebecca and Doc so much.

-Episodes 2 & 3 based the inmates' motives on events that happened to them as children. If this becomes the Smallville kryptonite of this series, I will get annoyed.

Blam said...


Once Upon a Time: 7:15 AM

I cannot for the life of me figure out how a network TV series — let alone one "from producers of Lost", a show that had more than one writer familiar with comic books — fails to get even ballpark contemporary issues for use as props or set decoration.

That complaint was specific to the previous episode, which like this one I mostly enjoyed even if it was a bit predictable. A larger issue that I've thought about vaguely before but for some reason more pointedly these last couple of weeks (maybe due to, like you, catching up a batch recently) is that Storybrook is a relatively small town. How many people were there in Fairy-Tale Land or whatever it's called? Did a lot die during the transformative spell and I forgot that plot point? Were the relatively "unimportant" ones not brought into the so-called real world?

here, it's the flashbacks that are most compelling (dicey CG and anachronist dialogue aside)

Agreed with all of this... The more I see of the flashbacks, though, including origin/prequel storylines for characters like Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin, the more "mythology" questions are raised for me that I'm not sure the show means to raise or cares to answer — like how big Fairy-Tale Land is in terms of geography as well as population, whether it takes place on a planet like Earth or a dimension where there's just land and sky, whether all the legends that we know took place there culminated (for lack of a better word) at roughly the same time, whether the Grimms and other authors channeled events from over there somehow or the stories on Earth came first and steered destiny in Fairy-Tale Land, and even whether the real world existed before the spell transplanted Fairy-Tale Land's people/characters into it.

The show occasionally reminds us that Mary Margaret is Emma's mother, but little has been made of the fact that David is Emma's father, something I don't think Emma knows/hasn't put together yet.

Good point; I hadn't really thought of that, partly because, in an ouroboric way, since we haven't seen much made of that I've tended not to make the association of David being Emma's father even though I know that David is Charming and Mary Margaret is Snow White and Mary Maragret / Snow White is Emma's mother.

It was nice to see Red Riding Hood in fairy tale land, instead of just wiping tables in the modern world. In general, I've been enjoying the way the show interweaves different fairy tale characters in the flashbacks.

Ditto. Although that brings me back to questions about the population, geography, and timeline of Fairy-Tale Land both internally and as it relates to Storybrooke / Earth at large.

The mysterious new stranger in town is a writer. I condone this show's portrayal of writers as mysteriously sexy

Ha! Ditto there too. So did anyone else think that Emma would know him when he first pulled up? I felt like the episode was heading towards him being Henry's dad, just to complicate things, especially since we just had Emma giving Henry a, well, fairy tale about who his father was. Even when Emma and he failed to recognize one another I suspected that it was a put-on for Henry's sake.

VW: tormally — In the usual course of severe physical and/or mental suffering.

Blam said...


Alcatraz: Kit Nelson

or "The 'Traz" as my wife and I call it

Ha! Now I want to see a stage-musical version called All That 'Traz — directed by Traz Palminteri.

I'm glad you like this. Reactions in response to Nikki's first post on it were very mixed. I don't think that it's brilliant, exactly, but I don't need it to be. My big problem, apart from some of the convenient plotting common to procedurals — matters of geography; wild guesses that turn out to be right; clues or hypotheses that aren't arrived at early enough because the script says so, like Doc Soto not realizing that Kit Nelson wasn't doing what the abductees wanted to do but rather recreating what he or his brother used to do — is that it looks like the 302 escapees are going to helpfully wait to return to their evil ways at the rate of roughly one per episode.

The big surprise for me was the apparent revelation that the convicts can die in the present day, although we may find out differently pending results of the autopsy.

Sarah: I'll be interested in seeing who wins redemption island

Okay, I know that Survivor has a Redemption Island now, but I've never seen Top Chef. Does it have that same kind of gimmick, and if so is it actually called "redemption island" or are you just borrowing the phrase? I want so badly for there to be an actual kitchen island called "redemption island" where you can only prepare food on that little counter space.

Mr. Shabadoo: They clearly were prepared for these criminals to come back. Yet they are almost entirely reliant on the two people that literally stumbled into their operation to catch them? What sort of crap planning is that?

I'd been bothered by that subconsciously too without quite having it come to the fore of my thoughts, so thanks for bringing it up — and, y'know, thanks a lot for bringing it up. 8^)

Mr. Shabadoo: Loved how dead wrong Emerson was when he 'threatened' Rebecca that if she left she'd never find out what happened to her grandpa.

Same here. When she spun around in anger her reaction was so refreshingly genuine and common-sense it took me aback.

Teebore said...

@Anne: maybe it's a midwest thing- and that's why we didn't think chicken salad was such an odd choice for a block party

That could be. We do love our mayonnaise-based "salads" 'round here.

@Mr. Shabadoo: due in no small part to the attractiveness of the main protagonist.

Indeed. Anne may not like her haircut, but I find her rather fetching.

Yet they are almost entirely reliant on the two people that literally stumbled into their operation to catch them? What sort of crap planning is that?

Yeah, I've too wondered how much of that is part of the story, and how much is Pilot-logic we're supposed to overlook because all that really matters is getting the main characters in place.

A lot of it, I suppose, will depend on how prepared Emerson was for the return of the convicts prior to their return (obviously, they knew it was coming, but did they know exactly when, or was their operation still in setup mode when the first one came back and Sarah and Doc got involved?) and how much he knows about what the convicts goal/mission in coming back is.

Also, I don't really understand why he dislikes Rebecca and Doc so much.

Yeah, I'm sure we'll get an "Emerson-centric" episode at some point, and hopefully that will help explain his dislike of them. It seems like a character trait that has to get SOME explanation at some point.

If this becomes the Smallville kryptonite of this series, I will get annoyed.

I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but you're absolutely right, and I totally agree. That probably also ties in with the larger story of what they're doing back here: the first two cons seemed like they were given a mission along with an opportunity to indulge their psychosis: so the first guy killed the warden, then that other dude, and the sniper killed a bunch of people, but also shot Emerson's assistant who turned out to be from the past. But this guy came back and just did his whackadoo thing, as far as we know.

Teebore said...

@Blam: I cannot for the life of me figure out how a network TV series ... fails to get even ballpark contemporary issues for use as props or set decoration.

Yeah, that always bugs me too. (Big Bang Theory is better about that, but they have their own issues with the comic shop as presented). In this case, I wondered if that issue was showcased because it was written by Lindelof, but while some of his Lost co-workers are involved in this show, he's not. Then again, maybe it's another of the show's Lost references, like some of the numbers and Emma drinking MacCutcheon (which most certainly would not have a screw cap, at least not as presented on Lost).

...which like this one I mostly enjoyed even if it was a bit predictable

That pretty much describes most of the episodes, with the few unpredictabilities being some of the ways they tweak the fairy tales.

How many people were there in Fairy-Tale Land or whatever it's called? Did a lot die during the transformative spell and I forgot that plot point? Were the relatively "unimportant" ones not brought into the so-called real world?

I wondered about this too, especially after the sheriff-election debate and a town hall meeting in last night's ep that had a ton of extras in attendance. I turned to Mrs. Teebore and said, "so, are all those people, like, the commoners of Fairy Tale Land that never became recognizable characters?"

The more I see of the flashbacks, though, including origin/prequel storylines for characters like Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin, the more "mythology" questions are raised for me that I'm not sure the show means to raise or cares to answer

I've been wondering about pretty much all the question you posed as well, particularly the idea of whether Fairy Tale Land is set in a mythic past, with the characters shunted forward to modern day Storybrooke, or did they exist in an alternate dimension (with the fairly coming,slightly mangled, to their writers via dreams of that world, a la the old Earth-2 comics) and were shunted over to Storybrooke by the curse.

On the one hand, some of our questions are probably, in the eyes of the writers, more pedantic than they have any interest in answering. On the other hand, recent "fairybacks" (to steal a term from Oliver Sava at the Onion AV Club) have started to show how the various characters and kingdoms fit together, so it's certainly possible we may get a more cohesive idea of the geographical and political lay of Fairy Tale land as time goes by, even if it comes about inadvertently.

Then, of course, there's also the questions of how the curse works, like keeping everyone in Storybrooke and strangers out. No one ever drives through? No one in town orders books from Amazon that have to be shipped to the town? All of their necessities can be met within the town limits? Even stuff like gasoline?

But, of course, all those kinds of questions can be chalked up to "magic".

(At the very least, I have more confidence in this show to address some of its mythology questions than I do Grimm, which, as I catch up on it, has some glaring mythology questions of its own to answer, and has given me little indication it has any interest in/intention of doing).

So did anyone else think that Emma would know him when he first pulled up?

Absolutely. I thought it would go down exactly as you did, with the pair feigning ignorance until Henry was gone.

Teebore said...

@Blam: ...is that it looks like the 302 escapees are going to helpfully wait to return to their evil ways at the rate of roughly one per episode.

Maybe I'm just rationalizing to make myself feel better, but the impression I'm getting is that while all the inmates (and, seemingly, at least some of the staff) all disappeared at the same time, I don't think they all came back (in the present) at the same time.

In the pilot, it seemed like we were seeing the arrival of the first prisoner to return, and my take on it was that whatever it is that is behind the disappearance is sending them back one by one to do something, either because they have to or because it works better that way, and once that prisoner is "done" another pops up.

But this episode kinda skunked that, since Kit Nelson didn't really do anything other than indulge his MO.

At any rate, yes, if the show provides no in-show answer for the convenient-for-TV "convict-a-week" pacing, it'll be a great disappointment. From what I've seen so far, I *think* this show is smart enough to do it.

I want so badly for there to be an actual kitchen island called "redemption island" where you can only prepare food on that little counter space.

While that would be awesome, she is, unfortunately, borrowing a phrase. Top Chef this season started a "Last Chance Kitchen" in which the contestant sent packing competes in a short online episode against the previous "Last Chance" winner. Whomever remains in the Last Chance kitchen whenever the show decides, will be reinserted to the competition and given another shot to win it all.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Yeah we just call it redemption island because, A) Survivor came up with the idea first and B) the name Redemption Island is easier to remember

Teebore said...

@Blam: In this case, I wondered if that issue was showcased because it was written by Lindelof

Which, of course, could only explain that one issue and not the rack full of comics from the 80s, which I just remembered were then in addition to the Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine issue Henry leafed through.

Blam said...


Yeah. I actually complained about the same thing on Alcatraz in a comment at Nikki's right before my comment here, and then I realized that I was probably mixing up the shows. I'm pretty sure we've seen some anomalies in Doc Soto's shop, but the issues of Geoff Johns' Justice Society of America in "Kit Nelson" were clearly bagged-'n'-boarded back issues, whereas in "True North" on Once the sundries shop had a rack of, like, I don't remember exactly what, but it was on the order of some random issue of DNAgents. I grant that the display was still better than the old issues of Action Comics clipped to wires in The Lost Boys, but if that's your barometer of realism, feh.

VW: cromendi — Healers amongst the early humans.

Blam said...


Teebore: I've been wondering about pretty much all the question you posed as well

Whew. 8^)

Teebore: recent "fairybacks" (to steal a term from Oliver Sava at the Onion AV Club) have started to show how the various characters and kingdoms fit together

Nice coinage; I'll have to remember that. Yeah, I've noticed that the legends have intermixed, not only on the level of all the witches knowing one another — like the Queen visiting Maleficent, I think it was, and of course dealing with Rumpelstiltskin — but the Queen directly involving herself in Hansel & Gretel's story. That last one was particularly weird, since based on the father's comment about them not getting lost I'd thought that their encounter with the candy cottage had already happened, and when it turned out it hadn't, with the Queen the impetus, I was disconcerted by how far afield the affair strayed from the established version (No bread crumbs?!?). On the other hand, Rumpelstiltskin's backstory seemed to widen the scope a bit, and I didn't get a sense of how far back in Fairy-Tale Land time that had happened because it's all sort-of pseudo-medieval and of course he's probably immortal as long as he has his power.

Blam said...


Teebore: Then, of course, there's also the questions of how the curse works, like keeping everyone in Storybrooke and strangers out. No one ever drives through? No one in town orders books from Amazon that have to be shipped to the town?

Maybe they get drops from The Dharma Initiative. And that accounts for the random comic books. 8^) Problem solved!

Really, though, I do hope they've thought that through. The Mayor did really seem to think she was getting rid of Emma by having her take Hansel & Gretel to Boston, so perhaps she knows or at least suspects that since Emma can travel freely the plan would work — or she hoped that since they can't leave town some horrible accident would befall them. I'm not sure how we're supposed to read Emma's car accident the first time she tried to leave herself — an outright inability to leave again, or fate trying to keep her there, or just a coincidence that perpetuates the series.

I don't even remember if Regina knows who Emma really is, and thus that Henry is Snow White's grandson, versus some cosmic plan that unbeknownst to her found her adopting the one child from the outside world with connections to Fairy-Tale Land. And that brings me back to the fact that, while time never really passed in Storybrooke until Emma got there, I've been under the assumption that she really is 30-ish and so FTL has only been Storybrooke for that long; this would change if somehow Emma hasn't aged normally in the outside world and nobody's ever noticed that and/or if she was in Storybrooke as a baby for some great length of time before leaving.

I have to say that it feels like FTL was shunted over to the "real" world contemporarily, existing alongside it another dimension, but that wreaks all kinds of havoc on the fact that the legends from there have existed in the real world for so long. Of course you can rationalize it by saying that time passes so differently there that practically all we've seen of FTL has occurred contemporaneously with the last several hundred years of human existence, but then you throw a monkey wrench in the colloquial American English spoken by most of the folks in FTL — which itself is weird not only on its own merits but because we do get some characters with "accents" like Rumpelstiltskin and the Hunter.

And you're absolutely right that the producers may feel that most of these questions are negligible, but I think that most of them rather fall under the heading of "internal consistency'; at the very least I'd like to get what would've helped so greatly with many points on Lost — some brief in-story lip service acknowledging such points and then waving them away as magic.

Blam said...


Teebore: Maybe I'm just rationalizing to make myself feel better, but the impression I'm getting is that while all the inmates (and, seemingly, at least some of the staff) all disappeared at the same time, I don't think they all came back (in the present) at the same time.

I'll happily go along with that, although if whatever agency (in the wider, more existential sense) brought them back is rationing them out, either intentionally or as some by-product of the mechanism of their return, it still seems rather convenient that they're spaced out the way they are unless, as you say, there's some master plan that keeps them in reserve as needed.

Teebore: At any rate, yes, if the show provides no in-show answer for the convenient-for-TV "convict-a-week" pacing, it'll be a great disappointment. From what I've seen so far, I *think* this show is smart enough to do it.

Yeah, I agree. (So why am I typing all this?)

VW: ringunc — Gollum's mother's or father's brother.

Teebore said...

@Blam: I don't remember exactly what, but it was on the order of some random issue of DNAgents.

I'm pretty sure I also saw some pretty old issues of Dazzler and Ka-Zar, of all things, on that rack.

I don't even remember if Regina knows who Emma really is, and thus that Henry is Snow White's grandson, versus some cosmic plan that unbeknownst to her found her adopting the one child from the outside world with connections to Fairy-Tale Land.

As far as I can recall, it's the latter. Even if Regina-as-mayor remembers her life as Regina-as-Queen, whereas no one else does, I don't think she knows that Emma is Snow's daughter (which is why I wish Emma was a little more careful of telling people that, even if it is Snow...).

at the very least I'd like to get what would've helped so greatly with many points on Lost — some brief in-story lip service acknowledging such points and then waving them away as magic.

I most definitely agree. While I think that Lost has soured me on ever getting into a TV show as much as I got into that one (fool me once...), and thus I'm ironically more likely to be forgiving of narrative dead ends/inconsistencies in other shows simply because I'm not as invested in them as I was Lost, I will always want serialized shows like this one to come as close to telling a cohesive narrative as possible.

For what it's worth, I know from following Jane Espenson on Twitter that the Once writers have a big wall-length board in their office with all kinds of details about FTL, the progression of the overarching story and the show's mythology mapped out on it, so that gives me some confidence.

Then again, the Lost writers had a board like that too, and it didn't stop them from leaving narrative threads unresolved...

And, of course, all those thoughts apply to Alcatraz as well...